A presenter from the BBC’s Asian Network said the community was in desperate need of the station after listeners were left distraught by the news it is to close.

Birmingham-born Adil Ray, who presents the breakfast show, said the airwaves had to have a national Asian radio station to champion little-known acts and to cover issues important to audiences across the UK.

He added listeners had contacted him and were “distraught” at the news.

The BBC announced this week that the Asian Network would go along with 6 Music in a major shake up.

A review proposed that the Birmingham-based station would be closed as a national service, but could possibly be replaced by a network of part-time local services with some syndicated national programmes on digital audio broadcasting (DAB) and medium wave in areas with large Asian communities.

A consultation process has started where the public is being asked for its views.

But Adil said the move to farm out the services would mean the stations carried a lot of responsibility in championing new talent.

The DJ was one of the first people to interview and promote R&B star Jay Sean who has since topped the US charts.

He said: “There is a danger that artists like Jay Sean will go unrecognised and will not break through into the mainstream. When he started out, Jay Sean was virtually an unknown, that’s where the Asian Network stepped in. Championing new talent is something that is important to our audiences. Jay Sean had an Asian following and now he has major success in the UK and US.

“There is a danger artists like him will be missed. The responsibility falls on shoulders of the outlets at the BBC to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

He added the country needed an Asian station because the minority had not yet fully integrated into the mainstream population.

“In an ideal world we would not need an Asian radio station, but we are not living in that world. The Asian population has only been here for 40 years. They need an output that covers issues important to them.

“I completely disagree that the commercial broadcasters are in direct competition with the station. The Asian Network is not immediately replaceable.”

Adil said the dwindling number of listeners – which fell 15 per cent to 357,000 in the third quarter of last year – was down to the digital age, with more and more people discovering other ways to listen to music.

But he said the network still had a chance to succeed.

“My belief is that if it continued, and if it was nurtured, it would be the national service that would attract listeners from all kinds of backgrounds.”